More audio

One of the Antony Gormley figures (Another Place) being leaned on by me!I have just completed a day-long session working with the supported learning team at Brooklands College in Weybridge.

It was GREAT.  The section staff, led by Lorraine Crossland, had asked for some advanced input on audio creation and usage techniques – the goal being to better support the learners and to populate their VLE.

I’d visited Brooklands once previously as part of the TechDis Ambassador project and during that first visit had shown them a variety of audio tools, tips and techniques – nothing too advanced but enough to whet their appetite. This second visit was supported by the JISC RSC-SE.

So – why GREAT?

Well, mainly because learners were in attendance all day and I was asked (at fairly short notice) to deliver the afternoon session. All of which was brilliant. The Entry Level 2/3 learners were keen to learn enough about audio but we also told them that they needed to remember these new techniques so that they could support their teachers in the future 🙂

Having already bitten the audio bullet, Lorraine’s staff had planned the day around the sort of things they might encourage learners to do and had begun to work with the learners in preparation for my visit. The morning group were introduced specifically to Audacity and to Balabolka. During  my previous visit, the IT Technicians had been shown how both tools could support learners and had made a sterling effort since to ensure that MyStudyBar and Audacity were available in this room. The power of MyStudyBar had really impressed one of the IT guys – he had some nice ideas for deployment.

606368564My afternoon group, Entry Level 2, had been making PowerPoint files and wanted to add audio to the slides. No problem! It was as if the intervening twelve years hadn’t passed – bang, I was in front of an engaged group with moderate learning difficulties. For ‘engaged’ read: enthusiastic, motivated, keen to learn, enquiring and fun to be with! They loved it!

We started with introductions and I picked up that their favourite lesson (and teacher?) was sport – so I demonstrated the use of audio on their PPTs by using a sport theme. I showed them Audacity and simply inserted the audio file we created. I may well have used Vocaroo but the techies are in discussion with the site because the college firewall won’t let it (Vocaroo) though!  They all shouted “cool” when the audio played – yet when I showed them how to attach the same file to an animation (the sporty image we’d chosen) – so that the description of the image (which is what we’d recorded) they shouted “cool’ even louder.

We set them off to do the same themselves then. Towards the end I called the group back and showed them Balabolka. They ‘got’ this immediately and once the college have grasped how to deploy the TechDis voices across their network – the learners will use it big-time.

As i said at the top – GREAT.

Advertisements

Jess and Jack

Last week I found myself in Glasgow hosting a stand on behalf of JISC TechDis at the RSC Scotland ‘Here Be Dragons‘ summer fair.

It was good to get back out on the road again and to meet friends old and new. It’s been a while since I was in Scotland to work, and therefore great to catch up with members of the RSC Scotland team.

This was the first of five RSC summer fairs I will be attending this month.

TechDis have recently launched two major new tools, which are aimed at improving the online lives of a significant range of people, not just learners. Although ‘Voices‘ can only be accessed by post 16 learners in England, ‘Toolbox‘ can be accessed via an open site. Other new tools, similarly sponsored by BIS are also planned for release in 2013 and it was my role to discuss all of these initiatives with callers at the stand.

I will concentrate this blog post on Voices.

The TechDis voices are two high-quality, youthful and modern voices (Jack and Jess) that can be used with text-to-speech (TTS) tools. Across England, staff and learners in higher education institutions and further education colleges as well as the skills, adult and lifelong learning sectors will have access to these voices.From:

Many of us will have heard the robotic voices installed on our computers and shied away from using them ourselves, but many computer users can and do benefit from text-to-speech facilities. Jack and Jess have been developed to make listening to computer generated speech that little bit easier. Go to Control Panel > Ease of Access > Ease of Access Center (in Win 7) and ‘click’ Start Narrator to hear the robotic Microsoft Mary. Previous versions of Windows and other operating systems present similarly dire voices.

Now go and download the new TechDis voices to hear what good quality voices CAN sound like.

Jack and Jess are available for both Windows and Mac machines. They work with the computers own facilities as well as freely available text-to-speech software like Balabolka and DSpeech, both of which have featured on either AccessApps or MyStudyBar.

If you’d like to know more, visit the TechDis site, or pop along and see me in Leeds [13th June], Taunton [14th June], London [27th June] and Sunderland (I think) on 3rd July. You’ll find more details on the respective JISC RSC web sites.